As part of their “Passholder Appreciation Days” season (August 14 to September 30) Universal Orlando has held a couple of special events for Annual Passholders in the past couple of weeks and we were able to go last week. Here’s what it was like.
We found out about the event via an email we received in mid-August.
Exclusive Passholder After-Hours Party At Universal’s Islands Of Adventure™
We’re throwing an amazing party just for you. Attend one of two free Passholder exclusive after-hours events in Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ to enjoy some of your favorite rides and attractions. Capacity is limited, so sign-up is required.
I know these types of events can fill up pretty quickly, so we figured out which date worked better made our reservations online. That was easy peasy.
The event was scheduled to run from 8pm to 11pm, so I figured I’d get there early, get wristbanded and play in the park a while and maybe get dinner before 8pm. I got there around 6:45pm and lo and behold, they weren’t going to open the gates to AP holders until 8pm. Oh. OK. Welllll….since I have an Annual Pass, could I go over to Universal Studios for a bit, and take the Hogwarts Express over a few minutes before 8pm? Would anyone be able to give me a wristband there? It took 3 Team Members to find out the answer to that one…”Sorry, no. Just here.” But I was welcome to sit on line now, if I liked, the chipper Team Member said. Ummm…no. I’m not a spring chicken and it was 90-something degrees with high humidity. Sitting on ground was not going to be happening. At least not for me. For others, it appeared to be the most natural thing in the world to do.
Well, good for them. Me, I went to The Cowfish® Sushi Burger Bar and got some something to eat.
After dinner, I got back to the line, which was much longer now, around 7:45pm. There was a friendly blonde Team Member with a megaphone type of set up, who was welcoming everyone, suggesting they move forward, and telling them they could activate their freestyle cup for just $4.99 for the evening. The whole thing was something of a mess – it was loud and crowded and there wasn’t any obvious queue until we got closer to the gates, but they did open the gates a few minutes early and I managed to get inside at just about 8pm.
As I approached the lake that all the lands in Islands of Adventure surround, I saw about 30 people standing on line. I asked what they were on line for and it turned out that Matt Korn, the Admin. from the Universal Orlando Annual Passholder group on Facebook was going to make an appearance. I thought it was a nice touch.
The rest of the night was pretty much the same as any other night at Islands of Adventure, save that a handful of attractions, several of the shops and nearly all of the restaurants were closed. However the crowds were thin and some cool stuff happened because of that:
- Lines were pretty much non-existent. 5 minutes for just about everything (and you usually spent that much time just to get through a queue). The only exceptions were Kong, which had a 25 minute wait posted (but actually only took about 15 minutes), and Raptor Encounter, which was estimated to be 20 minutes.
- They had lots of walkabout characters and because there were less people on line, it was much easier to talk to and take pictures with them.
- When I went on Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey, I was randomly assigned a top locker for my stuff (you can’t bring anything with you on that ride). However I’m really, really short – about 4’6″ – and can’t reach the top lockers (as it turned out, Joe didn’t go with me, so I couldn’t rely on him to get the stuff in and out of the locker). So I asked the Team Member in charge of the lockers if I could “have a do over” to get a lower locker. Well, when we did, I got ANOTHER top locker. So he did…something (I don’t know what)…and all of a sudden, top lockers were no longer available for rental. It was AWESOME! I would LOVE to have something like that in real life! 🙂
- I got a “private viewing” at Ollivanders (the attraction where someone is picked from the audience and they get to try 1-2 different wands and spells until “a wand picks them” and if you’d like to purchase this wand that picked you, we’d be more than happy to sell it to you) (BTW, I already have a wand – one picked me during previews at Diagon Alley. It’s made of birch with a Phoenix feather core. I made sure to suggest to the wand keeper that my 3rd wand to try be birch LOLOL).
At 10:06pm, I felt the first raindrop. Within a minute or two it went from drizzling big, fat drops to a deluge…and that deluge, complete with thunder and lightning, lasted until well after the 11pm ending time of the event. I was right by Seuss Landing when the rain started, so I went on the Caro-Seuss-el, and then went on the Cat In The Hat ride three times in a row, biding my time for the rain to end. But it never did. So with umbrella in hand and feet soaking wet, I worked my way to the parking garage and went home.
Having been to a couple of Walt Disney World’s special events for passholders as well as for DVC members, I couldn’t help but compare the two. Disney’s events were generally more crowded, which resulted in longer lines. However theirs also seemed a little more “special,” almost like a celebration for/with the attendees, complete with event merchandise, event maps with a list of what was open, and free soft drinks and snacks. Universal had none of that. In fact, the only thing that specified you were at a special event for AP holders were the meet-and-greet with Matt Korn and the gobo projections throughout the park (the perky Team Member with the megaphone had mentioned you could use your Universal Orlando app to know what attractions etc. were open but I guess if you didn’t have the app on your phone, you were out of luck). Not that the lack of merch or maps bothered me – I wouldn’t have bought the former and didn’t really need the latter, since I just walked from land to land around the lake.
So yeah…overall, I had a fun time. Granted, the system for entry was pretty awful but once we got inside, all was well. Whether it was because they limited the attendance that much, or because the event was on a Thursday, I will admit the lack of crowds was WONDERFUL! When and if they offer such an event again, I’ll definitely go.
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